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Karma Catches Up to Unethical Prosecutors

There may not be a Lord, but vengeance is often the universe's.  This week has been a bad one for unethical prosecutors.  All of these prosecutors have graced the pages of Crime & Federalism.  Correlation does not prove causation, but it's damned strong evidence of it.

Case 1: The prosecutor who sexually harassed a domestic violence victim has resigned:

A Wisconsin prosecutor facing removal from office over accusations that he abused his position in seeking relationships with vulnerable women will resign instead, his attorney said Monday.

Attorney Robert Craanen said Calumet County District Attorney Ken Kratz will step down before Oct. 8, the date set for a hearing to hear testimony on his possible removal from office.

Case 2: One of the unethical prosecutors in the Ted Stevens case has killed himself:

A Justice Department prosecutor who played a lead role in the corruption case against former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, has committed suicide.

Nicholas Marsh, who was transferred from the Public Integrity Section amid a criminal investigation of the government's handling of the case against Stevens, killed himself over the weekend. Marsh had been working in the Office of International Affairs. NPR first reported the suicide Monday morning.

I'm supposed to feel bad for him and his family.  Whatever.  People die every day, and if you really believed that every death was a tragedy, you'd be paralyzed with grief.

Marsh was a narcissist who was exposed as a criminal.  Why should I feel bad when someone who tormented innocent men died?  I'm not going to pretend to care.

If he had done the right thing by quitting his job, I might feel sorry for his family.  Instead, he refused to accept personal responsibility for his crimes.  He continued working as a prosecutor.  Did he indict more innocent men as a prosecutor?  Well, he won't be able to anymore.  He refused to the right thing, and so the universe forced his hand.

Case 3: Sean Cronin has been accused of a sex offense against a child.  This is great news.  Cronin, who is unethical and has prosecuted innocent men, has been falsely-and-justly (never thought I'd see those two words together!) accused of a crime:

A Miami federal prosecutor was arrested Sunday afternoon at a local bar after a young girl and her mother accused him of being indecent when he went swimming in his boxers at the establishment's pool overlooking the Miami River and downtown.

Sean Cronin, 35, was charged with a felony, lewd and lascivious exhibition, and a misdemeanor, resisting a police officer without violence, as he left Finnegan's River, 401 SW Third Ave., according to an arrest affidavit.

Hahahahaha.   Yes, the charges are bunk.  Yes, this prosecution is part of a broader theme at Crime & Federalism - the War Against Men.  A man who walks out of a pool is now a sex offender?  That's all it takes?  Yep, men, there is a war being waged against you.

Whatever.  I am going to rejoice in his suffering.  He's a bad person, and has earned every negative headline he'll receive.  Sure, the charges will be dropped - as they must under Florida law.  Let's hope more bad things happen to the wicked.  

In the meantime, we shall continue showcasing unethical prosecutors.  In my more motivated days, I've started a business plan for the Prosecutorial Misconduct Project - a non-profit devoted to holding unethical prosecutors accountable.  The problem is that I am suspicious of anyone who runs a non-profit - and I trust myself no more than I trust you - and so am having trouble in good conscience creating it.

There is currently a market failure.  I blog about prosecutorial misconduct more than anyone else.  People are too busy creating Twitter norms.  Because criminal lawyers should be more worried about whether some moron is duping lawyers into signing marketing contracts.  (!)

Anyhow, State Bars refuse to punish prosecutors.  A non-profit would write letters to state bars, demanding action.  It would file freedom of information act requests.  It would issue press releases when prosecutorial misconduct is uncovered.  It would be like Judicial Watch - but for prosecutors.

Someone should start this.  Maybe the guys at the Cato Institute could hire a person to do this full-time?  I don't know.  I do know that something other than my blog postings should be done to combat prosecutorial misconduct.

And I do know that I should start the thing myself, and thus proposing this idea is something of a cop-out.

Is Federal Prosecutor, Sean Cronin, a Child Molester?

Last year, Sean Cronin was was identified as an unethical prosecutor.  This year, he was charged with Lewd and Lascivious Assault on a Child.  Some criminal defense lawyers are giving him the benefit of the doubt, blaming his arrest on overzealous soccer mom.  

I haven't read the arrest report, so I can only speculate about whether he's a child molester, or whether he will be forced to register as a lifetime sex offender.  One can hope that a man who sought to destroy innocent men will himself find his life ruined.  

Ethos and Persuasion

A successful plaintiffs' lawyer friend describes trying cases against big firm lawyers as being "taking candy from a baby."  He is right, of course.  University of Chicago law professor Todd Henderson illustrates why.

Todd Henderson's Ethos.

[If you're not familiar with Todd Henderson, the rest of post won't make any sense.  Here's a summary of Henderson's arguments, and here is a shorter summary from the Chicago Tribune.]

Aristotle's Rhetoric - which most people don't even pretend to have read, even though it's free - could have spared Henderson some grief:

Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds. The first kind depends on the personal character of the speaker; the second on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind; the third on the proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech itself. Persuasion is achieved by the speaker's personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible. We believe good men more fully and more readily than others: this is true generally whatever the question is, and absolutely true where exact certainty is impossible and opinions are divided. This kind of persuasion, like the others, should be achieved by what the speaker says, not by what people think of his character before he begins to speak. It is not true, as some writers assume in their treatises on rhetoric, that the personal goodness revealed by the speaker contributes nothing to his power of persuasion; on the contrary, his character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion he possesses

Put differently: If you're a whiny, smug little shit, no one cares what your argument is.  

We can call this irrational.  Fine.  Go cry yourself to sleep, or as big firm lawyers do, complain about "dumb juries."  

Aristotle explained this stuff 2,000 years ago.  Nothing has changed since Aristotle's time.  You can refuse to listen to Aristotle, and continue losing.  Or you can listen to Aristotle, and continue winning.  There is, however, a catch.

Ethos is hard to fake.  It's rare to meet a blogger who is different in real life than he is on his blog.  If you write enough, you tell us about yourself.  All writing is autobiographical.

Henderson's ethos was that of a sniveler.  In his post, he whined.  When people pushed back, he continued whining.  When his wife yelled at him, he quit blogging.  (!)

Ethos can be modified, but it requires something few of us have.  In an era of self-indulgence, critical self-awareness is unusual.  A person who wants to persuade - rather than vent his spleen - must continually ask himself: How am I coming across?  Do I sound like an asshole?  Do I sound angry, self-involved, or smug?  Am I whining?

How many people know they are pretentious, self-involved assholes?  "Know thyself" is another ignored Greek teaching.

If you want to persuade, your ethos matters above all else.


Todd Henderson's Point.

Todd Henderson actually had a really good point.  Here is the issue: Will raising taxes on families earning $250,000 help the economy?  

To anyone not earning $250,000, that question seems remarkable.  

Yet how many "poor" people in the United States have DirectTV and cell phones?  My baristo bought himself and his wife an iPad.  If poor people are allowed to have cable television, cell phones, and computers: Why isn't a "rich" person entitled to his gardener, nanny, and house keeper?

Who has read the Millionaire Next Door?  The message of the Millionaire Next Door was, to my 19-year-old eyes, shocking: Most people you think are rich, aren't.  Rich is today defined by status symbols rather than financial freedom.  If you're a job loss away from destitution, you are poor.

All of the trappings of the rich cost money.  I know plastic surgeons who live paycheck-to-paycheck.  A friend of mine in jiu-jitsu had to be careful not to injure his hands.  He told me that, "If I didn't work for four-to-six weeks, I'd be bankrupt."

In the United States, almost all of us are a job loss from insolvency.  When we get a raise, we think about what we can spend it on.  We don't think: "I'm now earning 10% more than last year.  Last year, however, I was able to live a nice life.  I shall therefore save this 10%."  Nope.  Our consumption swells into our waists.  We grow into our fat jeans.

In America, everyone spends money on the same stuff.  People buy as much home as they can "afford."  People buy as much food as they can "afford."  When I was a kid, my parents bought the thirty-nine-cents-a-pound ground beef.  Rich people eat meat, too, but it's steak instead of ground beef.  To my parents and to the rich, both spending patterns were normal. 

Raising taxes on people who live paycheck-to-paycheck is going to harm the economy.  In the United States, consumption is the tide floating everyone's boat.  We want people buying $5 lattes and $50,000 BMWs.  Strike that: We need them to.

Thus, to save the economy, it might make more sense to tax wealth instead of income.  If a rich person is sitting on a billion dollars, it'd be better for the economy to force him to invest his money.  Money is like soil: It should not be allowed to remain fallow.  Or so we could argue.

I'm not sure taxing wealth is a great long-term strategy.  I don't know what the answer is.  I do know, however, that raising Todd Henderson's taxes is not going to be great for the economy.  Some $12/hr. baritso or $20/hour gardener is going to lose his job.  Is that what we want?

Had Henderson not established himself as a whiner - that is, had he focused on ethos - then perhaps we could have had a useful debate on tax policy.  

Instead, we screamed at Todd.  He cried himself to sleep after his wife sent him to bed with no dinner.  And we're still in an economic depression.

What all of this says about our national ethos is too disturbing for me to think about on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

What About the Kids?

Usually someone is trying to rob or trick you when they ask, "Think about the children?!"  Sometimes, though, they have a point.  Children didn't ask to be born - and they certainly didn't ask to be born to poor families.  So...What about the kids?

And there's an obvious political punchline: Republicans demand that children be born inoto families that don't want and can't afford them...for the child's sake.  Once the child has been born, Republicans demand that the child be forsaken. 

Status is the Happiness Killer

I would bartend or wait tables before being a document review lawyer.  Both jobs are more fun than reviewing documents, and the pay is about the same.  How many "lawyers" would make that choice?  Few would, because being a lawyer is "high status."  

Many lawyers even choose to review documents rather than work in traffic court.  Why?  Status.  Reviewing documents is seen as higher status than defending traffic tickets.

If you're only earning $30 an hour reviewing documents, why not actually practice law by charging clients a similar hourly rate?  The upside is that there is a way up from being a real lawyer; but there is no way up from being a document reviewer.

How often does status actually make anyone happy?  I've never met a happy status whore, and I've been in shin-digs where people were awesomely rich and high status.  It's a rigged game.

Status is also weakness, because it puts your happiness into the hands of others.  Status is concerned with how other people rate you.  Why give other people so much power over your happiness? 

The Elite v. Everyone Else

Christine O'Donnell is apparently stupid.  Is that the real reason you're being told to hate her?  

In terms of overt qualifications for Senate, consider Ted Kennedy:

When Ted Kennedy was Christine Oconnell’s age he’d already been kicked out of Law School, Served 7 years in the Senate, and left a young woman to asphyxiate.

Ted Kennedy used his trust fund to get drunk and womanize.  He never worked a day in his life.  Even studying was too much effort.  In college, he was expelled for cheating. (!)

Kennedy lived off the interest of a trust fund his daddy created for him.  He didn't even live his life serving the public.  He got drunk and had sex.  While a hedonist might envy that lifestyle, none would argue that it qualifies someone for high office.

Even though Ted Kennedy was unqualified to be Senator, you supported him.  Why?  Because he was born into the right family, he was qualified to lead you.

The current political and economic system is based on affirmative action.  If you are born into the right social class, you may rule.  There are plenty of brilliant-and-poor kids at state universities who couldn't afford to attend Yale.  These people are shut out of the power game - superior talent notwithstanding - because opening the game up to all would put an end to affirmative action for the elite.

Consider the Delaware election.  No, not the recent 2010 Senatorial primary. Consider the 1992 Congressional  election:

In 1992, [Mike] Castle did not run again for Governor, due to constitutional term limits. The result was what became known as ‘the Swap.’ Castle ran for the seat of U.S. Representative Thomas R. Carper and Carper ran for Governor. Delaware’s political leadership had quietly worked out the arrangement and retained the services of two very popular office holders.

Think about that.  How is that not an overt conspiracy to thwart the democratic process?  That is what the elite need to have happen.  If the elite get to pick the rulers, then the elite get to enrich themselves at taxpayer expense.  Mike Castle, for example, voted for the bailouts of Wall Street.  

Power-elites get to decide who becomes a Senator.  Why do the power elites get to make those decisions?  Because you serve as their useful idiots.  The New York Times or New Yorker tells you that someone is unqualified, and you believe it.  If fifteen minutes with the latest edition of the New Yorker isn't a substitute for religious faith, what is?

O'Donnell's election is proof that many Americans are waking up.  They realize that unless one is born into the right social class, the elites will conspire against them.  They will fight to prevent your children from competing. 

When you support Mike Castle and use the New Yorker as your play book, you're running plays against yourself.